January 9, 2017
Attending: John Savoca, William LaScala, Richard Fon, John Kincart
1. Blumberg subdivision, Baptist Church Road
(See Planning Board, 5/9/2016.) The board approved a second 90-day extension.
2. Colangelo subdivision, Jacob Road, Public Informational Hearing
The applicant made a presentation of the plan. (See below for details.)
Patrick Cumisky, speaking for the Recreation Commission, said his group opposed the proposed trail connection and dog park. He said the Commission preferred that the applicant’s recreation requirement be used to upgrade other town recreational facilities.
A second public comment came from a neighboring property owner who said he was speaking on behalf of several area residents. The resident said he was not opposed to the subdivision plan; his issue was the tree cutting that had been and was continuing to take place on the property without a permit on some weekends. He said it was ironic that the presentation highlighted the applicant’s concern about preserving trees when in the past an estimated 200 trees were removed without a permit. He said he had brought the issue to the attention of town officials but had gotten a run around. In response, the applicant’s environmental consultant said that the prior tree cutting had been done before he came aboard. The resident also challenged the consultant’s statement that the trees being cut down now were all dead or diseased.
The resident also asked about what type of farming was envisioned for the large lot. In response the consultant said that the current thinking was small plots for what he called “neophyte farmers” who want to experiment with whether they wanted to farm and if so, what crops.
An abutting property owner in Cortlandt questioned whether he and his Cortlandt neighbors had been properly noticed about the hearing. In response, Mr. Tegeder said that the applicant had met the town’s requirement that the applicant show a receipt that a certified letter had been sent but that the town did not require a signed return receipt. Al Capellini, the applicant’s attorney, added that there was no public notice requirement for the earlier Town Board public hearing on the applicant’s request to use the town’s flexibility standards.
The hearing was closed
3. Orchard View subdivision, Sherry Drive
The board went through a memo from the town engineer listing about 30 items and had no issue with any of them. Among the items were:
- the town engineer will work with the building department on the siting of each house when an application for a building permit is made (Mr. Tegeder added that when the subdivision comes back to the board for final approval, the board can revisit the issue of whether the board wants to review the siting issue.)
- the homeowners’ association will be responsible for the maintenance of all the stormwater facilities, and the applicant will set up a $5,000 escrow account in the event the homeowners fail to adequately maintain the facilities.
- the homeowners’ association will own the three acre parcel with the retention pond but the town will be responsible for maintaining it; the applicant will provide a gravel road to the pond.
- conservation easements will be used for the lots that are in the wetland buffer. A split rail fence will be erected at the 50 feet line (It was not clear if this was 50 feet from the house or 50 feet from the outer edge of the buffer. Mr. Tegeder said that stone walls were more typical than split rail fences.)
The board went into Special Session and voted to approve the preliminary plan. Mr. Tegeder noted that the details of many of the items in the engineer’s memo will be worked out by the time the applicant returns to the board for final approval.
4. RPG Properties, Lexington Avenue
After reviewing alternate plans with an 80’ and 90’ separation between the buildings, the board didn’t have any strong preference for one plan over the other but in the end advised the applicant to use the 80’ plan, although he can modify the separation to anything up to the 90’. By reducing the spacing between the buildings, the applicant will be able to add a few feet to either the rear yard of each building and/or add a landscaping strip in front of the buildings. The applicant will now apply to the Zoning Board of Appeals for the needed variance.
5. Shrub Oak International School, Stoney Street (New use for Phoenix House)
The applicant’s development team, led by attorney David Steinmetz, presented plans for a for-profit residential school, Shrub Oak International School, at the former Phoenix House on Stoney Street. Once fully operational, the school will serve 300 youth, ages 14 to 30. The applicant currently operates other facilities for autistic youth, mostly in Manhattan.
The applicant needs a special permit to operate a private school and site plan approval, both of which fall within the Planning Board's jurisdiction.
The plan includes a helipad that will be made available to local first responders. At the town’s request, the applicant will also discuss working with the two local school districts.
A Public Informational Hearing about the plan MAY be held in February or March; the date will likely be determined at the January 23rd Planning Board meeting.
The school will be staffed 24 hours a day, with approximately 60 people on duty at night and 150 during the day. Two staff members will live on the premises. One of the existing buildings may also be used where visiting family members can stay overnight. Because the residents are expected to come from all over, the applicant could not estimate the likely number of visitors.
The current building will basically remain unchanged but will be upgraded to meet all current building codes with added security for its residents. Some additional parking is planned. The renovation will take place in two phases.
The Planning Board was enthusiastic about the plan, adding that its primary concern was the traffic that the school would generate. The applicant is in the process of completing a traffic study and has done a traffic study at a similar, albeit larger, residential facility, that can be used as a model. The facility will likely supply a jitney service to carry staff to and from nearby train stations.
The applicant will work with the town assessor to determine what the property would likely be assessed at once it is put back on the tax roll and generates revenue for the town.
Under a previous agreement with Phoenix House, the town has been using the site’s southern driveway to access the town playing fields. (The driveway is the dividing line between the two parcels.) The applicant said he plans to expand the driveway, on his side of the property, so that the driveway could be used as the access point for staff and deliveries. The applicant will work with the town to continue to grant access to the fields until the town develops its own access on Stoney Street to the future sports complex being planned for the site. (The driveway is the demarcation line between the Croton watershed to the south and the Peekskill watershed to the north. By upgrading the driveway on the Peekskill side, the applicant will avoid the need for DEP stormwater review.)
While the entire site is 127 acres, the applicant said he has no current plans for the undeveloped portion of the property, including about 12 acres on the other side of Stoney Street. He added, however, that for financing reasons, he may submit a subdivision plan at a future date that would separate the school portion of the site from the portion that would remain undeveloped, adding that he’s not a residential developer. The site is currently sewered.
The applicant is hoping that the special permit and site plan can be approved over a 4-6 month period. Construction on phase one is expected to take about one year and a September, 2018 opening is the target date. The applicant may be able to start work on interior upgrades while the project is being reviewed.
(Note: the school has a web site, www.shruboak.org.)
6. Wetlands Ordinance, Town Board referral
The board continued its discussion of the two drafts. In response to Mr. Fon’s question of whether the advisory boards had received a copy of the drafts, Councilman Bernard said that the town clerk had said they had.
Mr. Barber repeated that one of the main changes from the current law was the change used to determine the threshold for what constituted a wetland: size, criteria and whether the site was a vernal pool. He said the thresholds used in the draft were more in line with DEC, the Army Corps of Engineers and other municipaliaties.
The other major change was balancing the different thresholds, adding more exemptions based on common sense, and using a functional analysis to determine the importance of the wetland as not all wetlands were of equal importance. He said the functional analysis, which would be determined by using one of the generally accepted methodologies, would be used to help develop a mitigation plan. For example, citing the Front St plan developed for the JCPC project, disturbance to a wetland with a marginal functionality could be mitigated by creating a higher functioning wetland elsewhere.
Mr. Barber said that another goal of the draft was to eliminate red tape and reduce the number if applications that had to go to the Town Board; under the draft, only applications with larger thresholds would go the Town Board.
In response to Mr. Tegeder’s question what the differences were between the first and second drafts, Mr. Barber said that while he helped put together the first draft, he was not privy to the changes the Town Board made that resulted in the second draft.
Councilman Bernard said that the buffer restrictions in the draft were consistent with the Town Board’s philosophy of letting property do what they wanted on their property.
In response to Mr. Fon’s suggestion that it would be helpful for other environmental professionals to provide feedback on the draft, Mr. Barber said he has talked to other professionals about the issue. He said the town may want to get feedback from some of the professionals who represent applicants before town boards. Also, if given authorization from the Town Board, Mr. Barber said he would meet with other town advisory boards.
In general, Mr. Barber, who has been the town’s environmental consultant since 1998. said that the draft was a better ordinance than the current ordinance, that it didn’t hurt the environment, and that it had room for the town to be “creative.”
As some board members requested additional time to review the drafts, the board will have a follow up discussion at its January 23 meeting prior to sending a memo to the Town Board. Councilman Bernard indicated that no date had been set yet for a public hearing.
As the board was ending its discussion, two residents who had been in the audience throughout the meeting but hadn’t said anything on any of the other agenda spoke up in opposition to the draft law which they said was weaker than the current law and more user friendly to developers. Calling the draft “disgraceful,” they said that the law would affect every homeowner and yet the public didn’t know what was going on. Mr. Fon tried to assure the residents that recent development approvals are trying to solve environmental problems created years ago before there were strong environmental protection laws. And Mr. Kincart said that a new law would give the town the mechanisms it needed to solve problems.